Detroit Pistons: Is There Hope for the Near Future?
The Pistons may still sneak into the playoffs this year. It would be good for the young guys to get that experience. The only downside is that it would hurt their chances of getting a good draft pick.
After the recent Bobcats loss, where the team currently in eighth place dominated the Pistons when it counted, I dug into their contract situation to see if there was any hope for the future…
I recently wrote that I hoped the Pistons could keep Tayshaun Prince because he has been our most consistent performer this year. After further review I can see that’s not going to happen. Unless we trade him in the next three weeks he will just walk at the end of his contract this year.
The Pistons are currently at $65 million, which is $7.5 million over the cap. Losing Prince would seem to help, but it won't because nearly every contract increases next year so that they will be at $74 million.
Let's take a look at the rest of the roster...
2011 Core Is Locked and Loaded
The following players are locked up for at least 2011, most well beyond that. These guys represent next year's core, barring trades.
- Ben Gordon
- Charlie Villanueva
- Greg Monroe
- Jason Maxiell
- Will Bynum
- Ben Wallace
The Pistons Control These Players with Team Options
Rodney Stuckey, DaJuan Summers, Jonas Jerebko, Austin Daye, Terrico White
Stuckey, Summers and Jerebko have rookie contracts that are up and the team has the power to make qualifying offers, which means they can match any offer they get from another team, or if there is none, sign them at that offer number.
I find it hard to believe Summers is a priority, but he will be cheap at $1 million, so maybe he stays.
Jerebko has the same number and will most likely stay.
Stuckey has a $3.9 qualifying offer, and should receive better offers than that from other teams, meaning the Pistons will have to decide to match those offers or let him go.
The team has an option on Austin Daye for $1.9 million, which they will definitely exercise.
Terrico White is the cheapest contract on the books for 2011: $788,872.
The Richard Hamilton Dilemma
The wild card in all of this is Richard Hamilton.
He makes $12.5 this year and next, with another $12.5 partially guaranteed for the 2012-13 season.
Joe has got to get rid of him for an expiring contract somehow, or we will be unable to make any changes to the team next year.
If he stays, he has to play or this is bordering on insane.
As I mentioned before, Tayshaun Prince's contract is up and I highly doubt the Piston's will be able to re-sign him with their current salary cap issues. It is a shame to lose him, but truthfully we have several younger players with upside and he is going to be let go.
Other contracts that will be up are Tracy McGrady and Chris Wilcox.
McGrady has shown that he still has the ability to play, and he has also shown that he has the ability to adapt his game now that he is not the high-flyer he used to be.
- His passing, defense and leadership have all been on display this year and he will receive offers which eclipse the $1.3 million he is making this year.
- We will be unable to keep McGrady if he gets any decent offers this offseason, unless we get rid of Hamilton.
Chris Wilcox is starting now, but should not be once Jerebko comes back. He is a tough inside presence that is nice to have off the bench, but he is replaceable.
Position by Position
Trading Adrian Dantley for Mark Aguirre was not an easy decision 20 years ago.
Joe Dumars will have to make a bunch of his own tough decisions in the near future if the Pistons are going to return to greatness.
Assuming the Pistons will draft well next year, they will need to get rid of two players to make room for them.
That, along with the contract situations makes for an interesting offseason.
Let's take a position-by-position look at what Joe will be thinking about, and how this team could look next year...
Tracy McGrady has helped Greg Monroe develop into a double-double machine since starting at the point. He is better at getting other players the ball where they can be effective more than Stuckey has been. He creates mismatches because he can post up smaller guards. He also can pass over almost any other guard, which makes it impossible to press him. If we trade Hamilton I think they will use the money to keep him. If not, he’s gone.
Rodney Stuckey is much better as a shooting guard and we are not as good with him at point. It’s possible he could learn from Tracy and become better though. More than one team gave up on Chauncey Billups as a point guard before he figured it out in Motown.
Will Bynum has been a great spark late in games, but is not a starting point guard for a championship-level team in my opinion. Greg Monroe basically disappears when he is in the game because he can’t pass over the defense and distribute like McGrady can. He has started to drive and dish lately, but he is still a backup point guard.
Terrico White, before the draft, claimed he can play the point and he did play there at times during summer league. He fared well, but he looked more like a potentially great shooting guard, and we should not mess with that at this point. He has the size and athleticism to become a good defender.
Bring TMac back, with Bynum as the backup. Save Stuckey and White for shooting guards.
Let's assume Hamilton is gone...
Rodney Stuckey is bigger, a better defender and gets to the rim and foul line more. He also can push the offense and get a cheap basket while the opponent's transition defense is sleeping a few times each game.
Ben Gordon is a better shooter, especially from three-point range. He is better off the dribble than some people give him credit for.
Terrico White looked very good in summer league and is almost the same size as Stuckey. He appears quick off the dribble and was hitting from beyond the arc. He could develop into the best of the three, but he's not ready yet.
Sign Stuckey and start him. Have Gordon back him up, with White developing for the future.
Austin Daye has been there lately and has shown a silky smooth outside shot. He’s improved his ability to fake, dribble and drain the 18-footer, but still needs to develop some kind of post move, and add something to his frame so he can defend. Right now, he’s only able to block the occasional shot, but can’t defend in a post-up situation at all. Too often he's forced to commit fouls when he gets beat.
Jonas Jerebko has great energy, good size and can do a lot of things well. Austin appears to be the future and Jerebko could be his backup if he settles at this position.
DaJuan Summers has good size, and maybe with consistent minutes could develop into a decent player, but we just don’t see enough of him to know. He has been very uninspiring in limited action and seems expendable. He likes the long shot, but is slow to get off the shot, and hasn't hit many when he does get them up.
Austin Daye gains 15 pounds, learns to bend his knees on defense and toughens up. Either way, Daye starts and we draft someone else to back him up at this position with our first-round pick.
In an ideal world Greg Monroe would be the power forward with someone else playing center, but it does not seem like the plan in Detroit...
Charlie Villanueva can hit threes in bunches, make a few steals and can rebound occasionally. He excels at reach-in fouls out on the wing.
Chris Wilcox is a tough presence down low, and has some offensive potential, similar to Maxiell, but a little better.
Jason Maxiell once had promise, and is still young, but if the Pistons are going to contend he should promise to play hard as a reserve off the bench.
Jonas Jerebko is potentially the best all-around starter if Monroe plays center. He is definitely the best defender. Hopefully he comes back healthy and can continue to develop.
I really wish we could find a free-agent center or draft one, then start Monroe at PF and Jerebko could back him up. If we don’t, I think Jerebko will be the guy then Charlie V. would be the first off the bench. Wilcox and Maxiell will be the bruisers off the bench.
Ben Wallace has been a force down low for years and is winding down his career where he belongs. It may be best for the Pistons if he is the backup center for his remaining time though.
There is always a chance the Pistons will draft a center and he could learn behind Ben while slowly stealing playing time.
If they don't draft or acquire a true center, Greg Monroe will most likely start in 2011, with Wallace coming off the bench.
2011-12 Opening Day Starters
2011-12 Opening Day starting lineup, with backups in parentheses:
PG: Tracy McGrady (Will Bynum)
SG: Rodney Stuckey (Ben Gordon)
SF: Austin Daye (our first-round draft pick)
PF: Jonas Jerebko (Charlie V.)
C: Greg Monroe (Ben Wallace)
Things actually look a whole lot better in 2012-13 when more contracts come off the books, so we may be looking at an early playoff exit in 2011-12 as we continue to shape the future team. With the right moves we could be hosting a home playoff series in two years.